Daily Bible Reading

Our foolish preaching

If we break down the message of the Gospel and look at it as an outsider might, it really is a foolish message.

A young girl gets pregnant before her wedding. The baby doesn’t belong to her fiance, but he marries her anyway. When she goes into labour, the only place they could find to stay was a stable. The kid grows up with his mother and adoptive father and trains in the family business—carpentry. He causes a bit of a ruckus, but by all accounts (and they are few), he’s a normal kid. At the age of thirty, he decides to make a bit more of a stir and hand-selects a group of people to follow him. Commercial fisherman and social outcasts are among those selected. This man from nowhere special then travels around with his little group and pretty much stirs up the religious people. He says things that are contrary to what they believe and he hangs out with people no one should be hanging out with. He performs all sorts of miracles—which many would have attributed to witchcraft. By the end of three years, he’s earned himself an execution. When he’s dead, all that’s left of his three years of wandering the countryside are a few men and a handful of weeping women.

Great story. No wonder so many people won’t listen to it! But that’s not the end.

This strange man with a contrary message didn’t stay dead. He came back to life in glorious fashion and continued to share his message with his followers for another forty days before disappearing. He disappeared.

This is the great message we are supposed to share with the world.

When people want to tell a story about one man saving the world, they send a superhero. Someone with extraordinary strength, power, and character. Someone with skills and abilities that go beyond being able to swing a hammer and tell a great story. They tell a story about an invincible hero who will always be around to save the day.

Our hero died. On purpose.

It is the fact that Jesus walked into his own death that makes our hero’s story the most extraordinary. He didn’t do what people expected of him. He did more.

I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT)

In order to be the hero that saved the day once and for all, Jesus had to do things differently.

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all those who believe.

1 Corinthians 1:21 (NLT)

The world may see our message as foolish (void of understanding or sound judgement; weak in intellect; unwise; imprudent; acting without judgement or discretion in particular things; ridiculous; despicable), but there is far more wisdom in it than anything the world could ever come up with.

This “foolish” plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:25 (NLT)

God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NLT)

We can look at this story of salvation as the world might—a sad one of a strange leader and his motley crew that somehow managed to do enough to have their story told for millennia. Or we can see it for what it really is—an incredible story of sacrifice and salvation. The story of the world’s greatest hero born in the most humble of circumstances. The story of one man who gave up his own life not for his glory, but the glory of his Father and the salvation of the world.

God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom.

1 Corinthians 1:30 (NLT)

Our story doesn’t end with death. It continues with life. Life everlasting.

Not so foolish, is it?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 112-115, 1 Corinthians 1

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Daily Bible Reading

Proclaim

I have a difficult time watching or reading the news these days. Gone are the days of unbiased news reports and, just as George Orwell predicted when he wrote his book 1984 (in 1949), everything we do and say is under scrutiny. Social justice warriors demand that everyone fall into line with their opinions and the Church has become one of their largest targets. Much to the dismay of Christians around the globe, there are many churches that have given in to these ludicrous demands. They are allowing the world to change their way of thinking in hopes that they can change the world’s way of thinking. That’s now how this works.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

If the Church keeps watering down its message, soon there won’t even be a message worth sharing. Our message is not one of tolerance nor is it a message of condemnation. But it is is one of joy, peace, and love everlasting. Our message should be as the psalmist wrote thousands of years ago. I leave you to meditate on these words.

Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; bless his name.
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise
He is to be revered above all the gods.
The gods of other nations are merely idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come to worship him.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
Tell all the nations that the Lord is king.
The world is firmly established and cannot be shaken.
He will judge all peoples fairly.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
Let the fields and their crops burst forth with joy!
Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the Lord!
For the Lord is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will just the world with righteousness
and all the nations with his truth.

Psalm 96 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 96-98, Romans 12

Daily Bible Reading

Speak without a sound

Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there.

Acts 19:32 (NLT)

There are a lot of people in a lot of places making a lot of noise. Like this crowd in Ephesus, they found a cause and joined the fray without even knowing why they were there. It all sounds too familiar. How much noise are we surrounded by? How many people are shouting to make their voice heard over the rest? How much of it really matters?

The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvellous craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
their voice is silent in the skies;
yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to all the world.

Psalm 19:1-4a (NLT)

Isn’t in incredible that the crowd at Ephesus had to shout to be heard and most of them didn’t even know why they were shouting! Yet the heavens are silent in their declaration and their message can be heard across the entire world.

Think about your message today. Consider the volume of your words and actions. Are you adding to the noise or are you making a silent declaration?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 19-21, Acts 19:21-41

Daily Bible Reading

Get out of the way!

I’ve been to a lot of church services. I grew up in the day when we went to church twice on Sundays, once on Wednesdays, and attended extra services when a guest speaker was in town. We had youth group on Fridays and maybe even a mid-week Bible study. When I say I grew up at church, I mean that I actually spent the majority of my time at the church. Not much has changed.

In all of those church services, I saw a lot of ministry lines, altar calls, hands go up for prayer. But I rarely saw a pastor or speaker interrupt his or her sermon to do so. They weren’t wrong, but in recent studies and conversations, I’ve begun to wonder if they were always right.

While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

Acts 14:8-10 (NLT)

As far as I can tell, this is the first the crippled man had heard the Good News.  It was Paul and Barnabas’ first trip to the area and they were bringing a new message to the people there. Churches and training centres hadn’t been set up yet. The apostles were setting up the groundwork for future ministry.

Then this crippled man shows up. He hears a message of miracles and salvation and his faith is stirred. What do we do now?

In some churches, he’d be required to spend several weeks in studies on faith and healing before someone may or may not lay hands on him.

In other churches, he’d be told that healing isn’t for today, God made him crippled for a reason.

Yet in other churches, he might have to wait for the end of the message for a call to the altar to be offered and hope that someone could help him to the front before the altar closes to new arrivals.

But what did Paul do? The moment he recognized that this man had faith, he stopped what he was doing and called out to him to stand. He didn’t pause to teach on how healing works. He didn’t have to explain what faith is. He didn’t fall to his knees to petition God with pleading groans so the man could be set free from his affliction. In fact, I haven’t found anywhere in the Gospels where this was the case.

Miracles happened when faith was present and the men of God acted on their recognition of it. Long, flowery prayers not needed. Explanations unnecessary. A simple command was all that was required to activate the faith that was already there.

If God says He’ll do something, it’s up to us to believe and proclaim that He will do it. And when the gift of faith shows up, get out of the way! Shut up and let God show off. This message we preach is not about us. It’s about the God who came to give us abundant life. What we have to say is far less important than what God came to do.

Start looking for faith and then practice acting on it immediately. It may require retraining our minds and our spirits to respond in a different way, but if the result is seeing the crippled walk, the blind seeing, and the sick healed, it’s worth it. Isn’t it?

Daily Bible reading: Job 35-37, Acts 14

Daily Bible Reading

To boldly go

… to boldly go where no man has gone before.

You’ve probably heard that phrase more than a few times. It’s the mission of the starship Enterprise.

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

The Church has a similar mission—only it’s a life-long one, not just five years.

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

Mark 16:15 (NLT)

Did you know that this instruction from Jesus doesn’t apply only pastors? It applies to Christians. Period. But a lot of us tend to look at this as a job not an opportunity. The more we see taking the Gospel to the world as work, the less we’re apt to do it. So how did the early church manage to grow so much so quickly?

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. Send your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God’s message with boldness.

Acts 4:29-31 (NLT)

The church prayed and—amazingly enough—God answered their prayers!

They didn’t pray for their leaders to be bold, they prayed for boldness for themselves. Every member of the church received the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News boldly. We don’t have to share the Gospel, we get to. And we don’t have to do it on our own power. If your desire is to see more people brought into the Kingdom of God, God is not going to withhold the power of His Spirit to help you do so.

Jesus told us to bring the Gospel to the world, but he also promised the Helper.

It’s time that the Church—the whole Church, every member of the Church—pray for boldness to preach the Good News. Now is not the time to sit back and reevaluate our message so that we don’t risk offending certain groups of people. Now is the time for us to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to fall on us all so that we boldly go forth and preach God’s message.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 12-13, Acts 4:23-37

Daily Bible Reading

Shake the dust off

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

Mark 16:15 (NLT)

This verse is probably as well known to you as John 3:16. We call it the Great Commission. Every Christian is called to bring the Good News to a lost world. But what if the lost world doesn’t want the Good News?

Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.

Mark 16:16 (NLT)

It sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it? Some churches might even preach that hearing the Good News is good enough. Surely God wouldn’t condemn someone who has heard His Gospel.

Yet that is exactly what this scripture says. Believe and be saved. Refuse and be condemned. It’s a pretty simple, but hard truth to swallow. And, once we come to the realisation that not all who hear the Good News will accept it, how do we, as the ones who present that Gospel deal with the guilt of seeing someone condemned to a life of eternal torment?

We shake the dust off our feet and move on.

If the people of the village won’t receive your message when you enter it, shake off its dust from your feet as you leave. It is a sign that you have abandoned that village to its fate.

Luke 9:5 (NLT)

We can and should hold ourselves responsible to the Great Commission. We should be sharing the Gospel and spreading the Good News to the best of our ability, but we cannot and should not hold ourselves accountable for those who refuse our message. In Luke 8, Jesus addresses the different types of people that will hear the Word. He wouldn’t have talked about the seeds that would never grow if everyone who heard the Good News accepted it with joy.

Let this lesson free you—not from the burden to share the message of salvation—but from the guilt that may come when there are those who refuse your message. If you have prepared yourself and presented Jesus to the very best of your ability, you have fulfilled your Commission. If your message isn’t received, shake the dust from you feet and move on encouraged that you are still doing the work of the Father.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 10-11, Luke 9:1-36

Daily Bible Reading

Your faith

In many circles, the message of faith is one that is avoided, never spoken of, mocked, or even spurned. I read an article just the other day from a secular news site about the North American prosperity message – it didn’t talk about how God wants His people to be blessed so that they can be a blessing to others, but rather made it out that Christians play the offering basket like a slot machine.

Faith is not a message to be shied away from.

So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

You can’t be a Christian and not be a person of faith. The faith message isn’t some name it and claim it, blab it and grab it message. It is a message of hope. A message of salvation. A message of a God who truly wants to bless His people.

This is what the Scripture says: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” That is the teaching of faith that we are telling.

Romans 10:8 (NCV)

The purpose of the message of faith isn’t to make Christians rich. It is to proclaim the Good News of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Your faith has the potential to change not only your life, but the lives of those around you.

In our reading for today from the Gospel of Matthew, we find an account of a leader of a synagogue who tells Jesus that, if only he could come lay hands on his daughter, she will be raised from the dead (Matthew 9:18). Because of that man’s faith, his daughter lived and reports of the miracle spread throughout the countryside.

A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years thought that if she could just touch Jesus’ robe, she’d be healed.

Jesus turned around and said to her, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

Matthew 9:22 (NLT)

And still, after that, two blind men followed Jesus believing He could restore their sight.

Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”

Matthew 9:29 (NLT)

Your faith is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is something to tell the world about! As you continue reading through the Gospels, see how much faith accomplished.

What could happen because of your faith?

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 27-28, Matthew 9:18-38